Digital copier verses digital offset press

printing656

Well-known member
Hello,
I know this has been asked before in some fashion or another, but it seems each situation is different.

We have run all digital copiers since we started this company over 10 years ago. A side part of the business is printing newsletters and slips which don't have any personalization on them. We've always printed these on a dedicated printer, 12x18, and mostly all glossy 100lb and 80lb txt. We are now averaging about 150k 12x18 impressions a month on our digital device and are increasing that potentially by another 100k per month. The longest runs are about 16k impressions, average is maybe 5k.

I'm wondering if we should make the jump to a digital offset press with all the larger jobs? A DI34 or something like that. One of my Operators is a former pressman, but he is getting up in years and I worry about jumping into this and what happens after he retires. The other staff aren't ecstatic to take this on, but would get onboard if I asked them to.

Thoughts? Should we keep paying large amounts to our copier company for clicks or should we jump into offset? I don't necessarily believe the ROI I'm hearing on offset presses because I will need a dedicated person standing there the entire time. With our copies, we run 1-2 Operators on 12 machines, so labor is very little per job.
Thanks for any advice.
 

Craig

Well-known member
I have looked at the same thing and found a "local" trade only printer to partner with on the long runs to be more profitable. We typically have them run the 19x25 press sheets and we finish them in house. I would look at that option first.
 

kdw75

Well-known member
If you are regularly doing runs over 5,000 then it might make sense. Presses are so cheap if your willing to pick up a used one. I ran a press for about 18 years before I started running a copiers the majority of the time. Anything over 3,000 sheets and we put it on the press though.
 

Magnus59

Well-known member
The DI presses are expensive to run with proprietary plates required. IMHO you could save a lot of money by purchasing a conventional small offset press and a secondhand platesetter
 

jwheeler

Well-known member
This is an interesting situation because so many shops are moving in the opposite direction. But if you do invest in offset, whether digital or conventional, you'll have several other cost factors to consider besides the cost of the press and maintenance on the press. You'll have the obvious cost of plates and inks. You'll also have to deal with the press wash chemicals, blankets, a rag/towel service, fire-safe cabinets and bins to store materials/used rags, the higher insurance on the employee running the press, and managing your local state/city requirements for handling/disposing of the chemicals and inks. Waste from setup sheets is another factor...not as many sheets needed with a DI press, but conventional definitely requires quite a bit per job, per side.

I'm not saying the DI Press is a bad move, just need to consider all of these things. Plus, if you're volumes keep increasing and you can rely on it being consistent, at some point, it will definitely make financial sense....and it will (generally) allow you to produce the larger jobs faster. The best thing to do is a comparison for some of your most common jobs. You mentioned a run of 5,000. Consider what it currently costs digitally and what profit you're making. Then compare to cost of running on press and see if it's enough of a difference. Take finishing into consideration. If these are newsletters that are getting collated, folded, stapled, and trimmed in-line, there's a big difference in post-press finishing to consider with the offset.

Another idea to check out is working with your current digital copier provider to lower the CPC. It might help to get some competitive quotes to push them a little. You can also try committing to a certain minimum volume such as 100,000/mo. This will give the service manager more reason to offer a lower CPC.

Lastly, as mentioned by Craig , you can always outsource the longer runs if you can find a trusted local trade printer.
 

printing656

Well-known member
Thank you everyone who has responded already. These are all great points and it's interesting hearing the different experiences/opinions. I've gone out to a copier competitor to get a bid on a faster, larger, better machine as well as asked my current vendor to sharpen their pencils and see what they can do. In my mind, labor will be the deciding factor and whether or not we can stomach having dedicated staff XX number of hours per week running this press. I'm concerned we may have to hire someone due to the dedicated time current staff will have to give the press-being unable to multitask multiple machines at the same time.
 

davarino

Well-known member
Definitely you should look at the "trade printer" option if you can find one whom you can trust.

Litho press shops are true bargain centers if you're running 5M or more impressions per side and can gang up several jobs on a press sheet.

Think of a "13x19 click charge" equivalent of less than 3.5¢ at 5000 if you can gang 4-up at a time, or less than 2.5¢ at 10,000. (This does not include bindery costs or paper, of course.)

Buying your own press is a completely different issue.

Unless you are willing to take the leap of getting a good press operator, a "half-size" or larger press, and a complement of bindery equipment to handle the work, you're better off not touching it. Money in press is made from volume and from craft efficiencies; if you don't have experienced printshop management it would usually not be worth attempting starting a press-production area.
 

_socket

Well-known member
So jobbing out and cost is highly dependent if you are breaking the setup costs. You say 5k impressions. This would imply a duplex 12x18 with 2.5M? If this is the case you would need 8 plates for every 5k impressions. Comparing just plate cost to impression cost is a good start. I see the impression avg cost per a job at $200 and a DI plate cost being about half that. On the 8M sheet jobs you would diffidently save money by running a DI ($640 vs $100). I will say a DI is a good fit if you have a single press sheet type and run a lot of it like newsletters.
 

prepmaster

Well-known member
I had a Ryobi 3404 which I kept for 12 million impressions. Then I moved to Konica with their then new BizHUB Press C1060. I used to have 4 employees and now it's just me. I'm making more profit now than I did with my DI. Presstek the company that created the DI Plate technology shot all of it's DI users in the foot. Their plates are way too expensive (between $900 to $1200 per set of 28 jobs) to make any money especially if you can get the same exact thing way cheaper on a gang-run press. A company by the name of VIM came out with better plates at one third the price which then made sense but Presstek bought them out parted the company so that there was no competition. They raised the price of both plate brands to 900 to 1200. That's when I decided to sell it off. Bought it for 350,000 and sold it for 25,000. Oh Well... Not only that.... The maintenance on that machine was really high with all sorts of problems in the electronics. NOT WORTH IT....
The Konica has been a steady partner for 7 million impressions now and I am glad I did what I did. If I need to increase my capacity in the future I will probably buy another one and work it in-line... THINK carefully before you make any decisions....
 

gregbatch

Well-known member
Definitely you should look at the "trade printer" option if you can find one whom you can trust.

Litho press shops are true bargain centers if you're running 5M or more impressions per side and can gang up several jobs on a press sheet.

Think of a "13x19 click charge" equivalent of less than 3.5¢ at 5000 if you can gang 4-up at a time, or less than 2.5¢ at 10,000. (This does not include bindery costs or paper, of course.)

Buying your own press is a completely different issue.

Unless you are willing to take the leap of getting a good press operator, a "half-size" or larger press, and a complement of bindery equipment to handle the work, you're better off not touching it. Money in press is made from volume and from craft efficiencies; if you don't have experienced printshop management it would usually not be worth attempting starting a press-production area.
The Ricoh 9100 was 3.6¢ a click up to 13x19. The DI used to fill a gap between digital toner and offset. I think the gap is very narrow now, if not gone, between toner based digital and offset. As suggested, find a good offset partner and figure where your break points are for sending to offset.
 

printing656

Well-known member
I had a Ryobi 3404 which I kept for 12 million impressions. Then I moved to Konica with their then new BizHUB Press C1060. I used to have 4 employees and now it's just me. I'm making more profit now than I did with my DI. Presstek the company that created the DI Plate technology shot all of it's DI users in the foot. Their plates are way too expensive (between $900 to $1200 per set of 28 jobs) to make any money especially if you can get the same exact thing way cheaper on a gang-run press. A company by the name of VIM came out with better plates at one third the price which then made sense but Presstek bought them out parted the company so that there was no competition. They raised the price of both plate brands to 900 to 1200. That's when I decided to sell it off. Bought it for 350,000 and sold it for 25,000. Oh Well... Not only that.... The maintenance on that machine was really high with all sorts of problems in the electronics. NOT WORTH IT....
The Konica has been a steady partner for 7 million impressions now and I am glad I did what I did. If I need to increase my capacity in the future I will probably buy another one and work it in-line... THINK carefully before you make any decisions....
I've been told by different printers that Presstek has become more reasonable with their prices since Mark Andy bought them. A roll of plates is now under $800 and service had dropped in half or more.
Exactly what you mentioned is my concern. 1 person can run many, many copiers, but 1 person can ONLY run 1 offset press.
 

printing656

Well-known member
So jobbing out and cost is highly dependent if you are breaking the setup costs. You say 5k impressions. This would imply a duplex 12x18 with 2.5M? If this is the case you would need 8 plates for every 5k impressions. Comparing just plate cost to impression cost is a good start. I see the impression avg cost per a job at $200 and a DI plate cost being about half that. On the 8M sheet jobs you would diffidently save money by running a DI ($640 vs $100). I will say a DI is a good fit if you have a single press sheet type and run a lot of it like newsletters.
Correct, that is one way to look at it and a typical scenario for us.
 

printing656

Well-known member
The Ricoh 9100 was 3.6¢ a click up to 13x19. The DI used to fill a gap between digital toner and offset. I think the gap is very narrow now, if not gone, between toner based digital and offset. As suggested, find a good offset partner and figure where your break points are for sending to offset.
So it sounds like you guys aren't buying the hype that running on one of these is 75% cheaper than a copier? I don't believe so either when you factor in labor, I just don't know how much labor to account for when comparing it to running a copier.

I don't think a trade printer would work for us...there's none within our immediate area. Closest is about an hour away. Additionally, most of the work we do is in and out in a day or two. We usually don't have a week or two weeks to get 5,000 newsletters done. We've also had bad luck with some print shop work not running well with our inserter.
 

_socket

Well-known member
So it sounds like you guys aren't buying the hype that running on one of these is 75% cheaper than a copier? I don't believe so either when you factor in labor, I just don't know how much labor to account for when comparing it to running a copier.

I don't think a trade printer would work for us...there's none within our immediate area. Closest is about an hour away. Additionally, most of the work we do is in and out in a day or two. We usually don't have a week or two weeks to get 5,000 newsletters done. We've also had bad luck with some print shop work not running well with our inserter.
If you have work (as I stated above) to run the DI 5 days a week I think it's a great fit. You let it sit things will go south.. These machines like to be run in a clean environment. There are many large trade printers that use DI presses for specific jobs. I know the local Presstek rep and he's a nice guy. Presstek is trying hard to rebuild their reputation and are offering free training to operators etc. The plates work out to $8 each (https://baypressservices.com/shop/34di-plates/). That's $64 per 4/4 job in plates plus you have to consider cost of ink, presswash, plate cleaning cloth and other consumables. You can also work n turn jobs if they 8.5x11 so the job total cost is $32. This is a press and not a copier so ink takes time to dry and you can't just turn the job 5 minutes after you print it. Even with copier click costs dropping (3 cents and below) a di still can make money running 8M+ jobs ((3.5c)$560 VS (.8C)$64+). Also the other thing to consider is the DI runs comfortably 200 letter clicks a minute which is considerably faster than most toner machines.
 

gregbatch

Well-known member
So it sounds like you guys aren't buying the hype that running on one of these is 75% cheaper than a copier? I don't believe so either when you factor in labor, I just don't know how much labor to account for when comparing it to running a copier.

I don't think a trade printer would work for us...there's none within our immediate area. Closest is about an hour away. Additionally, most of the work we do is in and out in a day or two. We usually don't have a week or two weeks to get 5,000 newsletters done. We've also had bad luck with some print shop work not running well with our inserter.
If you look only at "click" costs, a DI is definitely cheaper on longer runs. But you also must factor in the additional requirements, some of which may be based on your location. Ink and chemicals in our area means meeting fire code requirements for storage and also hazmat inspections and signage in our windows. Only one rag service has the facilities to legally process rags with our ink and chemicals, so they are rather expensive. Insurance also takes a leap. Add dedicated skilled labor. For a DI you still need someone skilled in offset. What about zoning? Depending on your zoning, you may not be able to add offset at all.

Paper profiles and job profiles are important on a toner machine to be up and running quickly. On newsletters you usually need only 1 print for sign-off and then push the button. Multipagers come off collated, face trimmed and ready to box. Ask most shops that have shifted from offset to all digital (toner) and they will tell you the threshold is very high to push them back to offset. I wonder how many finished sheets are off a toner machine before the DI gets the first good sheet out?

Our trade shop is 2 hours away in another state. They are 1 day away by UPS, plus they run their own truck on larger jobs. They only print to the trade. We send a file in the morning, it's run and shipped that afternoon. We get it the next day. In most cases we are no more than 2 days out from receiving the material. It's a family owned shop and they have no desire to go direct to clients and all the associated headaches. They get print-ready files, print and ship.

The only way to really know for your situation is set up a big spread sheet and see where the numbers fall on a good sampling of your jobs.
 

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